Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

15 Day Solo Trip LIS North
by egknuti

Trip Type: Paddling Canoe
Entry Date: 07/05/2014
Entry Point: Little Indian Sioux River (north) (EP 14)
Exit Point: Moose/Portage River (north) (EP 16)  
Number of Days: 15
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
I've been doing this trip route for several years and it is one of my favorite routes. My goals are to fish, photograph, explore and find solitude.
Day 1 of 15
Saturday, July 05, 2014

The morning is beautiful. The sun is shining and there is little wind. Normally I do my solo trip two weeks prior, but do to family obligations I start my trip after the 4th of July. I will miss out seeing the Moccasin Flower and many of the beautiful wild flowers that inhabit the BWCA in the late spring. Some people have asked me how I am able to do a 15-day solo trip and still stay married. I tell them I have a great wife.

It is hard to shake off the real world it is almost like animal shedding its winter coat. It comes off little at a time and sometimes in clumps. I would say that it takes at least three days to acclimate oneself to the rhythms of the north woods. I put away my watch but I still wonder what time it is. I’m still tied to the rituals of my daily routine and eating times. Is it time for lunch? I ask myself. But I need to remember that my body will tell me if it’s time. Not the watch.

The sounds of my paddle dipping into the cool dark waters of the Little Indian Sioux River are slowly interrupted by the sounds of the Elm Portage rapids. The water levels are up and the rapids at Elm Portage are flowing. I see no other groups only their signs. Footprints, canoe lines in the sand and a candy wrapper that I pick up and put into my pack. I strap on my food pack and put my canoe on my shoulders to start my first trek across the portage. I keep one eye on the portage and one eye on the rapids. I want to stay and photograph the rapids and enjoy their beauty but I’m still fighting the notion of getting to where I’m supposed to be on my first day.

Some people do not enjoy portaging, but I enjoy the walk back. There is so much to see, beautiful Cedars, White Pines and wildlife as well. It is a rare moment when you are actually in the woods on a canoe trip. Some paddlers may never fully enter the woods on a canoe trip, spending most of their time on the water.

I load my canoe and continue down the Indian Sioux taking a moment to enjoy the Jeannette Creek Falls. I recall seeing a lone wolf along this stretch of the river and I keep my eyes open for any wildlife. I notice dark clouds from the west and sounds of thunder. I hope this storm passes north. The dark clouds slowly roll in with sounds of thunder. I see no lightening and maybe against my better judgment I continue down the river to Upper Pauness and paddle the short portage where Upper Pauness drains into Lower Pauness. The thunder booms loudly in the clouds and drops of rain begin to fall. As I paddle on Lower Pauness it begins to pour. There is already a group at the nearest site so I hug the shoreline for protection from the storm. I decide to continue during the storm, as I see no lighting. I continue to hug the shoreline and make it to the Shell Lake portage. As I walk up the portage, I notice how dark the forest is. I almost need a flashlight to find my way.

I am hoping that the first site next to the portage is open, as I do not want to paddle the lake in the storm. It is raining so hard that the portage has turned into a raging creek just below the beaver pond crossing. Reaching Shell Lake, to my luck, the first site is open and I paddle toward it. I have stayed here before. It is not my favorite site as it is too close to the portage and is a bit small. However, it will do for now. The rain abates temporary and I quickly set up my tarp and tent and have some lunch. Under my tarp, I watch two groups paddle across the lake with the sounds of thunder overhead. I think how stupid they are for traveling in such dangerous weather. And I know myself that I should have found a safe place to pull up and wait out the storm. There again I’m reminded how driven we are by time. “We have to get out today.” “The outfitter is meeting us at three.” “I’ve got a meeting tomorrow.” None of that will matter if you are dead.

After several hours the rain stops and I decide to paddle around the lake to see if any other sites are open. It appears that the other sites are full so I’m I made the right decision. I paddle back to start a fire and cook my first night steak. I enjoy a great Porter House steak from my parents beef farm along with green beans and instant mashed potatoes. The potatoes are not so good. [paragraph break]I'm tired and cold and decide to sit by the fire for the rest of the evening instead of fishing. I notice a moose in a distant bay, but I'm too tired to paddle. I go to sleep with the sound of thunder and drops of rain. Upper Pauness Lake, Lower Pauness Lake, Shell Lake